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Brazil sues Syngenta for alleged environmental damage

Logo is seen at the headquarters of agricultural chemical maker Syngenta in Basel

By Ricardo Brito and Ana Mano

BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazil's environmental agency IBAMA has sued Syngenta alleging the chemicals company caused "environmental damage" by producing and selling pesticides using much higher concentrations of a carcinogen than allowed under law, according to court documents seen by Reuters.

In the suit filed last week, IBAMA said it was seeking damages to remedy the environmental and human health problems arising from the use of such a toxic product.

IBAMA told a federal judge in Sao Paulo it had found evidence of use of a substance called "bronopol" at levels almost three times above the quantity authorized in the manufacturing of insecticide "Engeo Pleno."

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That substance was also illegally added to insecticides "Karate Zeon 250 CS" and "Karate Zeon 50 CS" but is not a part of their formula, according to IBAMA's allegations.

Syngenta said it presented before the court "proof of the non-existence of any type of risk or environmental damage" resulting from the allegations made.

The Switzerland-headquartered firm said health agency ANVISA, the agriculture ministry and IBAMA itself recently approved a new version of "Engeo Pleno" which would be "based on the levels of bronopol found in the formulations mentioned in the suit."

The company did not comment on the other two products, but said it took multiple measures "to eliminate any possibility of failure of the nature detected by IBAMA during an inspection in 2021."

Syngenta would have produced 4.7 million liters of these three insecticides, of which at least 4.4 million were marketed, according to evidence produced by the agency and presented to the court.

IBAMA estimates that the sale of the allegedly adulterated products generated more than 400 million reais ($73 million) for the company.

The agency has also asked the judge to force the company, controlled by ChemChina since 2017, to identify, collect and properly dispose of products sold that have not yet been withdrawn from the market.

The courts have not made any decisions yet.

The value of the compensation will be determined during the course of proceedings, according to court documents.

To guarantee payment of damages in case IBAMA wins the case, the agency has asked the court to require the company to set aside 90 million reais.

($1 = 5.4849 reais)

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito, writing by Ana ManoEditing by Alistair Bell, David Gregorio and Deepa Babington)